As the holiday season approaches and thoughts of parties, celebrations, presents and cold weather swirl in our heads, this is also a good time to think about what is in our hearts.
When I first jumped headlong into this business, the economy was in the dumps. People were struggling to sell their homes and to make ends meet. So, my most important reminder to everyone - employees, clients, contractors, and family – was that we were here to help. We wanted to make it known to clients that we were here to get through this all together. I was inspired by people like Ellen DeGeneres, Chip and Joanna Gaines, and many others who set great examples for how we should all treat each other.
One of those people who has made a huge difference in my life is Fran Heitzman of Bridging, a non-profit organization with the slogan “We furnish homes with hope.” 30 years ago, Fran gave away a piece of furniture to a couple who had just had a baby. He had no way of knowing how the idea of being a bridge between those with more privilege and those who are in need would spark thousands of volunteers to action and help thousands of people in the Twin Cities, and beyond.
When the first wave of families arrived in the Twin Cities after losing everything to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, my husband immediately offered one of our vacant rental properties. Our kids, young at that time, picked up paint brushes and painted as high as they could reach. The Twin Cities community jumped in to help as well, filling the home with furniture, food, clothes and toys for the kids. Fran Heitzman was one of the first to step up. He opened his warehouse doors on a weekend and allowed the families to walk through and select whatever was needed to fill the house and make it usable for their families. He single-handedly filled that place and helped them feel welcome, at home, and ready to enter into the Twin Cities community. To this day, I continue to donate our gently used Set To Show staging furniture to Fran, and my family has pledged to help Fran however we can.
This early experience helped shape my company goal to treat everyone with kindness and compassion. Each day I hope we can all make at least one person’s life a little bit easier or a little bit better.
Now in the midst of Ellen’s 12-Days of Giveaways, and giving a nod to the Gaines’s movement to #makekindnessloud, I want to encourage us to remember that we can all make a difference in some way, and even the smallest act of kindness can change the course of someone’s day, week or life.
Here are a few of my favorite ideas to keep kindness going.
A Free Cup of Coffee: I love my morning coffee, so I often pay for the car behind me in the drive thru line. No need for them to acknowledge me or talk to me, but my hope is they will then pass this on to someone else during the course of the day. It’s easy, low cost and anonymous!
Have the snowblower out? Keep it going!: One of my favorite things after a big snow is the sense of community. Everyone spills out into the street to begin digging themselves out. Inevitably, the guy with the snowblower helps the family without one and before we know it, the whole street is shoveled out!
Holiday Gatherings: As we all gather to celebrate this year, think about the power of your gathering. If collectively we all put our heads and hearts together, we can make a big difference in our communities. For the Set To Show holiday gathering this year, we are all contributing a small dollar donation, and then draw the name of one charity we each submitted to the bowl. Another friend just told me of a group that gathers for breakfast, bringing $100. Each. Once they cover the cost of the bill, the remainder becomes a nice tip and pleasant surprise for their wait staff!
Sometimes it’s all in the words: We don’t always have to spend money to make a difference. Sometimes a look into someone’s eyes and a kind word or acknowledgment is all it takes to make someone feel good. Or a quick hand-written thank you note to someone that a made a difference in your life reminds us all that we are important.
I believe in Karma. What you give, you will receive and then some. Financially, yes is important, but a compliment and a kind “thank you” can shake someone out their stressed- out flurry of activity. Or some unsolicited help can turn a person’s day around. The larger benefit is really to yourself.
We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday and seasons and a wonderful new year. Remember to tell someone you love them and pass it on!